If we embrace everything we do, even if it's not what is planned, there is always a sliver of the desired silver lining. Rock What Ya Got (Little, Brown and Company, September 25, 2018) written by Samantha Berger (What If . . .) with illustrations by Kerascoet (Malala's Magic Pencil) is a lively look at being satisfied with who you are. It champions self-acceptance with total joy.
Once upon a
blank piece of paper,
where anything could happen . . .
There was an artist who took a pencil and drew a little girl. She named her Viva. As she studied the drawing, the artist felt the drawing could be better. She lifted her pencil, again, to erase Viva.
Viva reached out and took that pencil in her hands. Viva believed she was fine the way she was. She asked the artist if she could
rock what I got?
The artist thought maybe the hair was wrong, so she experimented on another page with all kinds of styles and colors. None of them seemed to be right and Viva had plenty to say. The artist was still dissatisfied. It had to be the body that needed changing.
No matter what shape and size she tried on yet another page, none fit Viva. This gave Viva the perfect opportunity. She could not stop talking about herself and cheering for all her potential. This artist was not ready to give up, but neither was Viva.
When another attempt still left the artist unsure, Viva had a question of her own. Finding the answer brought back a memory the artist had forgotten. Together she and Viva started a new once upon a . . .
Taking the familiar and enchanting words used to begin a tale, Samantha Berger attaches new words taking readers into a whole new world of wonder. Samantha uses repetition masterfully in tying the beginning of the narrative to the end bringing us full circle. Each time the artist pauses and starts to change Viva, the same three phrases are used supplying us with a cadence inviting participation. When Viva speaks each of her spirited declarations ends in words that rhyme heightening the happiness of the entire story. Here is a passage with Viva shouting out with glee.
Everyone has their own special thing---
find what is yours,
and bring what you bring . . .
Find your own voice
and sing how you sing.
Find your own OOMPH!
Find your own ZING!
Mirroring the exuberance of the text the husband and wife team of Kerascoet splashes colorful artwork across the opened dust jacket. Every line is charged with bliss. Looking at Viva makes you want to jump for joy too. The watercolor crosses the spine to the back, framing text. The text appears to be written in pencil. The artist's hand is holding a blue pencil beneath it. The paragraph explains the delight revealed inside the book.
On a white canvas on the book case Viva skips across a field of watercolor and bright sketches. On the right of the opened case she is carrying the pencil. It's twice as big as she is but she carries it well.
The opening and closing endpapers are the inside of an open sketchbook. The spirals in the center of the sketchbook are placed in the center of the images. Each one, the opening and closing, are different, depicting possible settings with a variety of flora and buildings. On the title page Viva is peeking out from the pages of a small, handmade book standing up on the artist's table. This book holds the title text. Colored pencils are shown in a cup and on the table.
To complement the narrative the illustrations rendered in watercolor and colored pencils on Arches paper vary in their perspective bringing us close to the work of the artist, to Viva and the inside of the sketchbook. Each image spans two pages. The details bring us directly into the creative process of an artist. The hand lettering enhances this involvement of Viva with the artist and of us with the entire story.
One of my many favorite illustrations is when the artist is seeking to answer Viva's question. In this picture, on the right, Viva is kneeling on one of the pages of the open sketchbook on the desk. Above her, on the right and left, is the illustrator, seated and opening a drawer in her desk. She is removing the handmade book. All we see of the illustrator is a portion of her body, arms and hands. Viva is smiling as she watches. It is a pivotal point.
Rock What Ya Got written by the effervescent Samantha Berger with illustrations by the creative team, Kerascoet, is a gem to be shared repeatedly, preferably as a read aloud. You will want to have plenty of paper and colored pencils handy for readers to enjoy drawing exactly what they want to draw to express what they got. This one will sing off the shelves. Be sure to have a copy on your professional and personal bookshelves.
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